Sheets of Bahia, Brazil

The Swampy Freedom of Quilombo do Remanso

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António do Remanso walks in front of Fazenda Velha.
water lily tide
Visitors cross the Marimbus wetland.
from boat to boat
Nativo do Remanso at the village dock above the Marimbus wetland.
Antonio do Remanso
António, one of the many descendants of slaves who, in the XNUMXth century, fled from the region's snzalas.
river reflex
The group travels along the bank of one of the rivers that delimit the Marimbus.
water lilies
Water lily leaves, one of the predominant plants in the Marimbus wetland.
smile of relief
A beekeeper in Remanso, freed from the mask that makes him sweat under the tropical sun of the region.
natural shower
Visitors to Chapada Diamantina cool off in a puddle on the Roncador river.
old farm
The main house of Fazenda Velha, located at one of the ends of the historic territory of the quilombos that gave rise to the Remanso.
Sweet offer
Remanso beekeeper strictly protected from bees offers honeycombs to Marimbus visitors.
coffee colored river
Teenager from Remanso bathes in a dark lagoon of the Roncador river.
again among water lilies
Remador Tiago takes visitors through the canals of the Marimbus wetland.
Guides from Remanso António and Tiago are getting ready to drag the canoe along a too shallow stretch of the Roncador river.
Runaway slaves have survived for centuries around a wetland in Chapada Diamantina. Today, the quilombo of Remanso is a symbol of their union and resistance, but also of the exclusion to which they were voted.

Despite the end of mining prospecting and slavery, some of the people of Lençóis da Bahia remained apart from evolution, lost in time, faithful to history. It was not just the case of the quilombos.

This was the case of the miners, a class that is currently isolated from local society that maintains solitary representatives living and working in precarious conditions in the beds of rivers and streams, but also villages that group together descendants of the former prospectors.

Barqueiro, Remanso, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

Nativo do Remanso at the village dock above the Marimbus wetland.

This is the case of Estiva, a village lost in the middle of the immense scavenging of the interior of Bahia. And that was also what happened with Remanso, a community that succeeded the different quilombos that had previously spread in this remote and isolated area on the outskirts of Lençóis da Bahia.

The Austere and Secular Origins of the Quilombola Community of Remanso

Whether or not it's true, it is said that the first of these quilombos was originated by a slave who led a reckless escape from a slave quarter through the Marimbus swamp, it is estimated that, at the time, it was much more full of alligators, piranhas and anaconda than now – which had long frustrated any attempt at evasion.

António do Remanso, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

António do Remanso walks in front of Fazenda Velha.

This and other slaves will have been left to their fate. They forced Indian women still existing in the area to live and breed with them. Other quilombos often emerged after the fugitives resisted recapture attempts, in a post-colonial era in which their disobedience scandalized the free and wealthy population much more than the drag of slavery.

When we arrived at Remanso, one of these cafuzos, known as António do Remanso, started to guide us in that exotic Bahian setting in which he grew up. "Certainly!"

It is with the popular Brazilian expression and a strong country accent that answers almost every question and confirms most of our observations.

António exhibits a gentleness of manner that is uncommon in the male gender that immediately seemed to be associated with his rare androgenic traits in those parts.

It was this host who showed us the canoe chosen from among dozens anchored at the entrance to the Marimbus and who, supported by Tiago, a much more masculine and muscular colleague, began the navigation.

Discovering the Pantanal do Marimbus, Chapada Diamantina

The Marimbus occupies a vast (1250km²) flooded area between Lençóis da Bahia and Andaraí. It is fed by three rivers. It hides some interconnected lakes in which, sheltered by papyrus (locally called marimbus or peri), the remaining flora and a mixed fauna of the Atlantic Forest and the Amazon proliferate.

The wooden vessel sets sail with its capacity exhausted. The exaggerated weight requires extra effort from rowers.

Overcrowded boat, Remanso, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

Visitors cross the Marimbus wetland.

Even so, we advanced little by little there, breaking through a dense green mantle formed by different aquatic plants, embellished by hundreds of water lilies, at least until the tropical sun (the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the Chapada Diamantina) make its colorful flowers collect.

Our first objective was a farm called Fazenda Velha. The journey time to reach it has multiplied far beyond what was expected, this, with the agreement of the guides who never excused themselves to stop or deviate from the route to show us the most exuberant or just interesting animal and plant specimens.

An hour and a half, many meanders without visibility later, we came across an arm of a river. There, the shallowness forces us to beach the canoe on the shore and continue on foot what little was left, along the sandy and reddish bed of the Roncador.

Roncador River, Remanso, Marimbus Quilombola Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

The group travels along the bank of one of the rivers that delimit the Marimbus.

Returning to land, we embarked on a trail through dense forest. Gifted with the shadow of a cashew tree and the sugary juice of the fruits we all share, António takes the opportunity to talk about the past of Remanso and the Afro-Brazilian beliefs and rituals that subsisted in the community.

By combining his words with those of several other figures in the village, we learn about how everything happened.

From Manézinho to António Guide of the current Remanso

The village itself was founded by Manoel da Silva – Manézinho do Remanso (now 73), by his brother Inocêncio and by three cousins ​​plus their respective families, in 1942. previous. “My great-grandfather was an Indian and was 'caught' in the woods like a dog's teeth”, Manézinho himself got used to telling those arriving from outside. “In the slave quarters, he married my great-grandmother, who still came from Africa” (calculations made, supposedly in the early XNUMXth century).

António do Remanso Portrait, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

António, one of the many descendants of slaves who, in the XNUMXth century, fled from the region's snzalas.

"Here, we are all cousins ​​and children of cousins ​​who married cousins." “My grandfather was a fisherman and, from father to son, everyone was a fisherman”, explains the elder. “In the beginning, life was difficult. We fished peacock bass and crumatás, kept the fish in a fish pond and, on market day, held everything by the mouth in a cambão (wooden pole), we would still go out at night, on foot, to sell there in Lençóis”.

Decades passed. Remanso adorned itself with the first modern features, including a color TV connected to a satellite antenna that attracted the entire community around episodes of the most popular soap operas.

The village remained for a long time without the benefit of a social network and infrastructure built almost only in Lençóis, devoid of schools, health centers or anything else.

The inhabitants also complain that, despite being in a land blessed with regard to its beauty and fertility, the Remanso, the Marimbus and the Rio Roncador do not provide jobs and force many of their children to migrate to Lençóis and other places. farther away from Brazil.

Bathing in the Roncador do Remanso River, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

Visitors to Chapada Diamantina cool off in a puddle on the Roncador river.

The Pantanal do Marimbus and the Roncador River Tourism Trumps

In recent times, the village has finally begun to benefit from the growing tourist vigor of the Chapada Diamantina.

The community now charges tickets to outsiders who visit it and to Marimbus. Guides are paid by small agencies located in Lençóis.

This relief, with the additional benefits of farming, fishing and honey-raising – but also other arts and crafts – allowed several natives to return and, if not prosper, at least support their families.

Navigation Marimbus do Remanso, Marimbus Quilombola Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

Remador Tiago takes visitors through the canals of the Marimbus wetland.

Remanso's indigenous self-esteem largely stems from an awareness of the marginal origins of the community.

When families come together to celebrate whatever it is, these origins blessed by orixás, patuás and babalorixás are very evident to the sound of the drums, the berimbau, the reco-reco that give the rhythm to the capoeira of the youngest and to the songs of tribal and african inspiration.

We return to Fazenda Velha. We admire its secluded “Sitio do Pica-Pau Amarelo” charm before an invigorating Bahian lunch.

Fazenda Velha, Remanso, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

The main house of Fazenda Velha, located at one of the ends of the historic territory of the quilombos that gave rise to the Remanso.

The way back went against the current. It also tasted a lot sweeter.

In the middle of the swamp, we come across two beekeepers known to António and Tiago, in full gathering.

After a smooth berth and some good-natured conversation, the natives, dressed in white protective suits and masks that kept them distilling, bound them with honeycombs still soaked with honey.

Honey offer at Marimbus, Remanso, Quilombola Marimbus Community, Lençóis, Chapada Diamantina

Remanso beekeeper strictly protected from bees offers honeycombs to Marimbus visitors.

A little later, the night was already taking over the Marimbus, we anchored back in the Remanso and returned to the post-colonial civilization of Lençóis da Bahia.

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